Lausanne, 18 January 2005 - British Sports Minister Richard Caborn attended the FIVB Volleyball World Championships first round tournament in Sheffield at the weekend and congratulated the England men's team for winning through to the second round. England won both their matches against Scotland and Northern Ireland.
England now advance to the next round in the Czech Republic on 27-29 May 2005 where they will be confronted with Denmark, the Ukraine as well as the host nation. "It will be very difficult", said England coach Ian Legrand, "but we will target the match against Denmark and see what we can get from that."
With 35 million registered players worldwide, Volleyball is one of the world's top five sports and has been on the Olympic programme for 40 years, but still has a low profile in the UK. Volleyball is a fast and exciting non-contact sport demanding high levels of physical fitness, co-ordination and teamwork.
The sport's world governing body, the FIVB, and its President Dr Ruben Acosta believe that there is considerable potential for the sport in the UK and welcomed the English Volleyball Association's offer to host the inaugural matches of the FIVB Volleyball World Championships. A record 174 teams (97 men's and 77 women's) have entered, and the finals will be held in Japan from 16 November to 3 December 2006. The largest entry has come from Europe, where along with the reigning women's World Champions Italy, 35 men's teams and 27 women's have entered.
FIVB President Dr. Ruben Acosta says: "England is one of the world's sporting superpowers, and both the English Volleyball Association and the FIVB are determined to do all we can to help grow the exciting sport of Volleyball in the UK. We are very pleased that England agreed to host the inaugural matches of the FIVB Volleyball World Championships 2006, and they had excellent co-operation from the Scotland and Northern Ireland federations."
"This is a great opportunity to raise the profile of the sport throughout the United Kingdom," he added. "The Sheffield event was well organised and the matches between England and Scotland were sell-outs."
As well as the three-team men's tournament at Sheffield, there was also a four-team women's tournament, from which Spain and Serbia & Montenegro won through to the second round of the FIVB Volleyball World Championships, with Albania and England missing out.
Highlights of the tournaments at the English Institute of Sport, Sheffield, will be shown on Sky Sports TV in a series of one-hour shows repeated six times from 31 January to 4 February 2005.
"England, Scotland and Northern Ireland - like National Federations on all Continents - are keen to build on the success of Volleyball in Athens, where Volleyball was one of the best attended tournaments and the TV viewing figures were among the highest of all sports," Dr. Acosta said.
Interest in Volleyball is growing at all levels: as an elite spectator sport and as a mass participation sport, as a professional sport and as an amateur sport played in clubs, schools and universities on all continents.